We just returned from three weeks in Cortona (Tuscany) and wanted to share our dining adventures. Our first treat was a cooking class with Gina Stipo at her facility in a restored mill in the countryside south of Siena. We had about two hours of making our own pasta, lamb roast, panzinella followed by a long wonderful meal eating our handiwork. Of course, wine was featured at each course. ( http://www.eccolacucina.com/contactec...)
In Rome we could not get into Sora Margharita but heard from friends that it was good (reservations a must). We tried Pizzeria Ivo in Trastevere (Ripa del San Francisco), which is touted as the second best pizza in Rome. It was good, but not great and certainly not up to New Haven standards. Also mentioned in Chowhound was Capo de Fero ( via San Cosimato in Trastevere). Again this was good trattoria food, but not outstanding.
In Orvieto we ate at Ristorante Tipica Trattoria Etrusca, Via Lorenzo Maitani. The food here was excellent, as was the atmosphere and service. In Assisi we found the Trattoria Degli Umbria to be a fantastic stop for lunch (Piazza di Commune). I had wonderful fresh pasta with a lemon sauce and my wife had thin zucchini courgetttes with a sublime ricotta cheese.
We were steered to Coco Lezzone (Via del Parioncino 26r ) in Florence and loved it so much that we went back a second time. This is an informal trattoria that serves a ribollita so good that it could have been our only dish. We also tried their tomato soup (this is not what you think) and pasta with porcini mushrooms, both of which were excellent.
In Cortona had our best overall meal at La Locanda nel Loggiato
Piazza di Pescheria. There is a fantastic outdoor seating area under arches that overlooks the town square. The ricotta with grape must reduction was a sublime appetizer. We did eat at Osteria del Teatro, which has been recommended on Chow. The food was good, but not great. Given the choice I would eat at La Locanda. Also in Cortona is a very elegant café/bar – Café Tuscher (Via Nazionale 43 . Tel: 0575.62053. Closed Mondays. Massimo and family have created a wonder array of drinks, small and large plates in a truly classy space. They also have outdoor tables on the via. I strongly suggest the gazspacio (Tuscan style with bread – hard to describe but excellent) www.caffetuschercortona.com .
We tried all of the recommended gelaterias from multiple guidebooks. The Giolitti (via uffici del vicario, Roma) was by far the best in Rome. However, the very best gelato we had anywhere in our trip was in Cortona at Gelateria Snoopy (Piazza Signorelli 29). Do not let the name dissuade you. The flavors are strong with a good texture. We went there way too many times. Please say hi to Francesco.